Jiang, X., Sanford, R. & Pell, M.D. (2018). Neural architecture underlying person perception from in-group and out-group voices. NeuroImage, 181, 582-597.

Garrido-Vásquez, P., Pell, M.D., Paulmann, S., & Kotz, S.A. (2018). Dynamic facial expressions prime the processing of emotional prosody. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12. DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00244.

Caballero, J. Vergis, N., Jiang, X. & Pell, M.D. (2018). The sound of im/politeness. Speech Communication, 102, 39-53.

Chronaki, G., Wigelsworth, M., Pell, M.D., & Kotz, S.A. (2018). The development of cross-cultural recognition of vocal emotion during childhood and adolescence. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-26889-1.

Truesdale, D. & Pell, M.D. (2018). The sound of passion and indifference. Speech Communication, 99, 124-134.

Schwartz, R., Rothermich, K., Kotz, S.A. & Pell, M.D. (2018). Unaltered emotional experience in Parkinson’s disease: Pupillometry and behavioral evidence. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 40 (3), 303-316.



Fish, K., Rothermich, K., & Pell, M.D. (2017). The sound of (in)sincerity. Journal of Pragmatics, 121, 147-161.

Jiang, X., Sanford, R. & Pell, M.D. (2017). Neural systems for evaluating speaker (un)believability. Human Brain Mapping, 38, 3732-3729.

Liu, P., Rigoulot, S., & Pell, M.D. (2017). Cultural immersion alters emotion perception: Neurophysiological evidence from Chinese immigrants to Canada. Social Neuroscience, 12 (6), 685-700.

Jiang, X. & Pell, M.D. (2017). The sound of confidence and doubt. Speech Communication, 88, 106-126.

Schwartz, R. & Pell, M.D. (2017). When emotion and expression diverge: the social costs of Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 39 (3), 211-230.



Jiang, X., & Pell, M.D. (2016).The Feeling of Another's Knowing: How "Mixed Messages" in Speech Are Reconciled.Journal of Experimental Psychology:Human Perception and Performance.

Garrido-Vásquez, P., Pell, M.D, Paulmann. S., Sehm, B.,& Kotz, S. A. (2016). Impaired Neural Processing of Dynamic Faces in Left-Onset Parkinson's Disease. Neuropsychologia, 82, 123-133

Jiang, X., & Pell, M.D. (2016). Neural responses towards a speaker's feeling of (un)knowing. Neuropsychologia, 81, 79-93.



Pell, M.D., Rothermich, K., Liu, P., Paulmann, S., Sethi, S., & Rigoulot, S. (2015). Preferential decoding of emotion from human non-linguistic vocalizations versus speech prosody. Biological Psychology, 11, 14-25

Rothermich, K., & Pell, M.D. (2015). Introducing RISC: A New Video Inventory for Testing Social Perception. PLoS ONE, 10 (7), 1-24.

Liu, P., Rigoulot, S., & Pell, M.D. (2015). Cultural Differences in on-line sensitivity to emotional voices: comparing East and West. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 1-12.

Jiang, X., Paulmann, S., Robin, J., & Pell, M.D. (2015). More than accuracy: Nonverbal dialects modulate the time course of vocal emotion recognition across cultures. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 41 (3), 597-612.

Liu, P., Rigoulot. S., & Pell, M. D. (2015). Culture modulates the brain response to human expressions of emotion: Electrophysiological evidence. Neuropsychologia, 67, 1-13.

Rigoulot. S., Pell, M.D., & Armony, J. L. (2015). Time course of the influence of musical expertise on the processing of vocal and musical sounds. Neuroscience, 290, 175-184.

Jiang, X., & Pell, M.D. (2015). On how the brain decodes vocal cues about speaker confidence. Cortex, 66, 9-34.



Pell, M. D., Monetta, L., Rothermich, K., Kotz, S. A., Cheang, H. S., & McDonald, S. (2014). Social perception in adults With Parkinson’s disease. Neuropsychology, 28(6), 905-916.

Rigoulot. S., Fish. K., & Pell, M. D. (2014). Neural correlates of inferring speaker sincerity from white lies: an event-related potential source localization study. Brain Research, 1565, 48-62.

Rigoulot, R., & Pell, M.D. (2014). Emotion in the voice influences the way we scan emotional faces.  Speech Communication, 65, 36-49.



Garrido-Vásquez, P., Pell, M. D., Paulmann, S., Strecker, K., Schwarz, J., & Kotz, S. A. (2013). An ERP study of vocal emotion processing in asymmetric Parkinson’s disease. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8, 918-927.

Rigoulot, S., Wassiliwizky, E., & Pell, M. D. (2013). Feeling backwards? How temporal order in speech affects the time course of vocal emotion recognition. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1-14.



Paulmann, S., Titone, D., & Pell, M.D. (2012). How emotional prosody guides your way: evidence from eye movements. Speech Communication, 54, 92-107.

This study investigated cross-modal effects of emotional voice tone (prosody) on face processing during instructed visual search. Specifically, we evaluated whether emotional prosodic cues in speech have a rapid, mandatory influence on eye movements to an emotionally-related face, and whether these effects persist as semantic information unfolds. Participants viewed an array of six emotional faces while listening to instructions spoken in an emotionally congruent or incongruent prosody (e.g., “Click on the happy face” spoken in a happy or angry voice). The duration and frequency of eye fixations were analyzed when only prosodic cues were emotionally meaningful (pre-emotional label window:“Click on the/. . .”), and after emotional semantic information was available (post-emotional label window:“. . ./happy face”). In the pre-emotional label window, results showed that participants made immediate use of emotional prosody, as reflected in significantly longer frequent fixations to emotionally congruent versus incongruent faces. However, when explicit semantic information in the instructions became available (post-emotional label window), the influence of prosody on measures of eye gaze was relatively minimal. Our data show that emotional prosody has a rapid impact on gaze behavior during social information processing, but that prosodic meanings can be overridden by semantic cues when linguistic information is task relevant.


Jaywant, A. & Pell, M.D. (2012). Categorical processing of negative emotions from speech prosody. Speech Communication, 54, 1-10.

Everyday communication involves processing nonverbal emotional cues from auditory and visual stimuli. To characterize whether emotional meanings are processed with category-specificity from speech prosody and facial expressions, we employed a cross-modal priming task (the Facial Affect Decision Task; Pell, 2005a) using emotional stimuli with the same valence but that differed by emotion category. After listening to angry, sad, disgusted, or neutral vocal primes, subjects rendered a facial affect decision about an emotionally congruent or incongruent face target. Our results revealed that participants made fewer errors when judging face targets that conveyed the same emotion as the vocal prime, and responded significantly faster for most emotions (anger and sadness). Surprisingly, participants responded slower when the prime and target both conveyed disgust, perhaps due to attention biases for disgust-related stimuli. Our findings suggest that vocal emotional expressions with similar valence are processed with category specificity, and that discrete emotion knowledge implicitly affects the processing of emotional faces between sensory modalities.



Cheang, H. S., & Pell, M.D. (2011). Recognizing sarcasm without language: A cross linguistic study of English and Cantonese. Pragmatics & Cognition, 19, 203-223.

Everyday communication involves processing nonverbal emotional cues from auditory and visual stimuli. To characterize whether emotional meanings are processed with category-specificity from speech prosody and facial expressions, we employed a cross-modal priming task (the Facial Affect Decision Task; Pell, 2005a) using emotional stimuli with the same valence but that differed by emotion category. After listening to angry, sad, disgusted, or neutral vocal primes, subjects rendered a facial affect decision about an emotionally congruent or incongruent face target. Our results revealed that participants made fewer errors when judging face targets that conveyed the same emotion as the vocal prime, and responded significantly faster for most emotions (anger and sadness). Surprisingly, participants responded slower when the prime and target both conveyed disgust, perhaps due to attention biases for disgust-related stimuli. Our findings suggest that vocal emotional expressions with similar valence are processed with category specificity, and that discrete emotion knowledge implicitly affects the processing of emotional faces between sensory modalities.


Jesso, S., Morlog, D., Ross, S., Pell, M.D., Pasternak, S., Mitchell, D., Kertesz, A., & Finger, E.(2011). The effects of oxytocin on social cognition and behaviour in frontotemporal dementia. Brain, 134, 2493-2501.

Patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia demonstrate abnormalities in behaviour and social cognition, including deficits in emotion recognition. Recent studies suggest that the neuropeptide oxytocin is an important mediator of social behaviour, enhancing prosocial behaviours and some aspects of emotion recognition across species. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of a single dose of intranasal oxytocin on neuropsychiatric behaviours and emotion processing in patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized cross-over design, 20 patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia received one dose of 24 IU of intranasal oxytocin or placebo and then completed emotion recognition tasks known to be affected by frontotemporal dementia and by oxytocin. Caregivers completed validated behavioural ratings at 8 h and 1 week following drug administrations. A significant improvement in scores on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory was observed on the evening of oxytocin administration compared with placebo and compared with baseline ratings. Oxytocin was also associated with reduced recognition of angry facial expressions by patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia. Together these findings suggest that oxytocin is a potentially promising, novel symptomatic treatment candidate for patients with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia and that further study of this neuropeptide in frontotemporal dementia is warranted.

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Pell M. D., & Kotz S. A. (2011). On the time course of vocal emotion recognition. PLoS ONE, 6 (11): e27256.

How quickly do listeners recognize emotions from a speaker's voice, and does the time course for recognition vary by emotion type? To address these questions, we adapted the auditory gating paradigm to estimate how much vocal information is needed for listeners to categorize five basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness) and neutral utterances produced by male and female speakers of English. Semantically-anomalous pseudo-utterances (e.g., The rivix jolled the silling) conveying each emotion were divided into seven gate intervals according to the number of syllables that listeners heard from sentence onset. Participants (n = 48) judged the emotional meaning of stimuli presented at each gate duration interval, in a successive, blocked presentation format. Analyses looked at how recognition of each emotion evolves as an utterance unfolds and estimated the “identification point” for each emotion. Results showed that anger, sadness, fear, and neutral expressions are recognized more accurately at short gate intervals than happiness, and particularly disgust; however, as speech unfolds, recognition of happiness improves significantly towards the end of the utterance (and fear is recognized more accurately than other emotions). When the gate associated with the emotion identification point of each stimulus was calculated, data indicated that fear (M = 517 ms), sadness (M = 576 ms), and neutral (M = 510 ms) expressions were identified from shorter acoustic events than the other emotions. These data reveal differences in the underlying time course for conscious recognition of basic emotions from vocal expressions, which should be accounted for in studies of emotional speech processing.


Pell, M.D., Jaywant, A., Monetta, L., & Kotz, S.A. (2011). Emotional speech processing: disentangling the effects of prosody and semantic cues. Cognition & Emotion, 25 (5), 834-853.

To inform how emotions in speech are implicitly processed and registered in memory, we compared how emotional prosody, emotional semantics, and both cues in tandem prime decisions about conjoined emotional faces. Fifty-two participants rendered facial affect decisions (Pell, 2005a), indicating whether a target face represented an emotion (happiness or sadness) or not (a facial grimace), after passively listening to happy, sad, or neutral prime utterances. Emotional information from primes was conveyed by: (1) prosody only; (2) semantic cues only; or (3) combined prosody and semantic cues. Results indicated that prosody, semantics, and combined prosody–semantic cues facilitate emotional decisions about target faces in an emotion-congruent manner. However, the magnitude of priming did not vary across tasks. Our findings highlight that emotional meanings of prosody and semantic cues are systematically registered during speech processing, but with similar effects on associative knowledge about emotions, which is presumably shared by prosody, semantics, and faces.


Paulmann, S. & Pell, M.D. (2011). Is there an advantage for recognizing multi-modal emotional stimuli? Motivation and Emotion, 35, 192-201.

Emotions can be recognized whether conveyed by facial expressions, linguistic cues (semantics), or prosody (voice tone). However, few studies have empirically documented the extent to which multi-modal emotion perception differs from uni-modal emotion perception. Here, we tested whether emotion recognition is more accurate for multi-modal stimuli by presenting stimuli with different combinations of facial, semantic, and prosodic cues. Participants judged the emotion conveyed by short utterances in six channel conditions. Results indicated that emotion recognition is significantly better in response to multi-modal versus uni-modal stimuli. When stimuli contained only one emotional channel, recognition tended to be higher in the visual modality (i.e., facial expressions, semantic information conveyed by text) than in the auditory modality (prosody), although this pattern was not uniform across emotion categories. The advantage for multi-modal recognition may reflect the automatic integration of congruent emotional information across channels which enhances the accessibility of emotion-related knowledge in memory.



Paulmann, S. & Pell, M.D. (2010). Dynamic emotion processing in Parkinson’s disease as a function of channel availability. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32 (8), 822-835.

Parkinson's disease (PD) is linked to impairments for recognizing emotional expressions, although the extent and nature of these communication deficits are uncertain. Here, we compared how adults with and without PD recognize dynamic expressions of emotion in three channels, involving lexical–semantic, prosody, and/or facial cues (each channel was investigated individually and in combination). Results indicated that while emotion recognition increased with channel availability in the PD group, patients performed significantly worse than healthy participants in all conditions. Difficulties processing dynamic emotional stimuli in PD could be linked to striatal dysfunction, which reduces efficient binding of sequential information in the disease.


Paulmann, S. & Pell, M.D. (2010). Contextual influences of emotional speech prosody on face processing: how much is enough? Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 10 (2), 230-242.

The influence of emotional prosody on the evaluation of emotional facial expressions was investigated in an event-related brain potential (ERP) study using a priming paradigm, the facial affective decision task. Emotional prosodic fragments of short (200-msec) and medium (400-msec) duration were presented as primes, followed by an emotionally related or unrelated facial expression (or facial grimace, which does not resemble an emotion). Participants judged whether or not the facial expression represented an emotion. ERP results revealed an N400-like differentiation for emotionally related prime-target pairs when compared with unrelated prime-target pairs. Faces preceded by prosodic primes of medium length led to a normal priming effect (larger negativity for unrelated than for related prime-target pairs), but the reverse ERP pattern (larger negativity for related than for unrelated prime-target pairs) was observed for faces preceded by short prosodic primes. These results demonstrate that brief exposure to prosodic cues can establish a meaningful emotional context that influences related facial processing; however, this context does not always lead to a processing advantage when prosodic information is very short in duration.


Dimoska, A., McDonald, S., Pell, M.D., Tate, R. & James, C. (2010). Recognising vocal expressions of emotion in patients with social skills deficits following traumatic brain injury. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 16, 369-382.

Perception of emotion in voice is impaired following traumatic brain injury (TBI). This study examined whether an inability to concurrently process semantic information (the "what") and emotional prosody (the "how") of spoken speech contributes to impaired recognition of emotional prosody and whether impairment is ameliorated when little or no semantic information is provided. Eighteen individuals with moderate-to-severe TBI showing social skills deficits during inpatient rehabilitation were compared with 18 demographically matched controls. Participants completed two discrimination tasks using spoken sentences that varied in the amount of semantic information: that is, (1) well-formed English, (2) a nonsense language, and (3) low-pass filtered speech producing "muffled" voices. Reducing semantic processing demands did not improve perception of emotional prosody. The TBI group were significantly less accurate than controls. Impairment was greater within the TBI group when accessing semantic memory to label the emotion of sentences, compared with simply making "same/different" judgments. Findings suggest an impairment of processing emotional prosody itself rather than semantic processing demands which leads to an over-reliance on the "what" rather than the "how" in conversational remarks. Emotional recognition accuracy was significantly related to the ability to inhibit prepotent responses, consistent with neuroanatomical research suggesting similar ventrofrontal systems subserve both functions.


Jaywant, A. & Pell, M.D. (2010). Listener impressions of speakers with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 16, 49-57.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) has several negative effects on speech production and communication. However, few studies have looked at how speech patterns in PD contribute to linguistic and social impressions formed about PD patients from the perspective of listeners. In this study, discourse recordings elicited from nondemented PD speakers (n = 18) and healthy controls (n = 17) were presented to 30 listeners unaware of the speakers’ disease status. In separate conditions, listeners rated the discourse samples based on their impressions of the speaker or of the linguistic content. Acoustic measures of the speech samples were analyzed for comparison with listeners’ perceptual ratings. Results showed that although listeners rated the content of Parkinsonian discourse as linguistically appropriate (e.g., coherent, well-organized, easy to follow), the PD speakers were perceived as significantly less interested, less involved, less happy, and less friendly than healthy speakers. Negative social impressions demonstrated a relationship to changes in vocal intensity (loudness) and temporal characteristics (dysfluencies) of Parkinsonian speech. Our findings emphasize important psychosocial ramifications of PD that are likely to limit opportunities for communication and social interaction for those affected, because of the negative impressions drawn by listeners based on their speaking voice.



Pell, M.D., Paulmann, S., Dara, C., Alasseri, A., & Kotz, S.A. (2009). Factors in the recognition of vocally expressed emotions: A comparison of four languages. Journal of Phonetics, 37, 417-435.

To understand how language influences the vocal communication of emotion, we investigated how discrete emotions are recognized and acoustically differentiated in four language contexts—English, German, Hindi, and Arabic. Vocal expressions of six emotions (anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness, pleasant surprise) and neutral expressions were elicited from four native speakers of each language. Each speaker produced pseudo-utterances (“nonsense speech”) which resembled their native language to express each emotion type, and the recordings were judged for their perceived emotional meaning by a group of native listeners in each language condition. Emotion recognition and acoustic patterns were analyzed within and across languages. Although overall recognition rates varied by language, all emotions could be recognized strictly from vocal cues in each language at levels exceeding chance. Anger, sadness, and fear tended to be recognized most accurately irrespective of language. Acoustic and discriminant function analyses highlighted the importance of speaker fundamental frequency (i.e., relative pitch level and variability) for signalling vocal emotions in all languages. Our data emphasize that while emotional communication is governed by display rules and other social variables, vocal expressions of ‘basic’ emotion in speech exhibit modal tendencies in their acoustic and perceptual attributes which are largely unaffected by language or linguistic similarity.


Paulmann, S., Pell, M.D., & Kotz, S.A. (2009). Comparative processing of emotional prosody and semantics following basal ganglia infarcts: ERP evidence of selective impairments for disgust and fear. Brain Research, 1295, 159-169.

There is evidence from neuroimaging and clinical studies that functionally link the basal ganglia to emotional speech processes. However, in most previous studies, explicit tasks were administered. Thus, the underlying mechanisms substantiating emotional speech are not separated from possibly process-related task effects. Therefore, the current study tested emotional speech processing in an event-related potential (ERP) experiment using an implicit emotional processing task (probe verification). The interactive time course of emotional prosody in the context of emotional semantics was investigated using a cross-splicing method. As previously demonstrated, combined prosodic and semantic expectancy violations elicit N400-like negativities irrespective of emotional categories in healthy listeners. In contrast, basal ganglia patients show this negativity only for the emotions of happiness and anger, but not for fear or disgust. The current data serve as first evidence that lesions within the left basal ganglia affect the comparative online processing of fear and disgust prosody and semantics. Furthermore, the data imply that previously reported emotional speech recognition deficits in basal ganglia patients may be due to misaligned processing of emotional prosody and semantics.


Cheang, H.S. & Pell, M.D. (2009). Acoustic markers of sarcasm in Cantonese and English. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 126 (3), 1394-1405.

The goal of this study was to identify acoustic parameters associated with the expression of sarcasm by Cantonese speakers, and to compare the observed features to similar data on English Cheang, H. S. and Pell, M. D. (2008). Speech Commun. 50, 366-381. Six native Cantonese speakers produced utterances to express sarcasm, humorous irony, sincerity, and neutrality. Each utterance was analyzed to determine the mean fundamental frequency (F0), F0-range, mean amplitude, amplitude-range, speech rate, and harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR) (to probe voice quality changes). Results showed that sarcastic utterances in Cantonese were produced with an elevated mean F0, and reductions in amplitude- and F0-range, which differentiated them most from sincere utterances. Sarcasm was also spoken with a slower speech rate and a higher HNR (i.e., less vocal noise) than the other attitudes in certain linguistic contexts. Direct Cantonese-English comparisons revealed one major distinction in the acoustic pattern for communicating sarcasm across the two languages: Cantonese speakers raised mean F0 to mark sarcasm, whereas English speakers lowered mean F0 in this context. These findings emphasize that prosody is instrumental for marking non-literal intentions in speech such as sarcasm in Cantonese as well as in other languages. However, the specific acoustic conventions for communicating sarcasm seem to vary among languages.


Monetta, L., Grindrod, C. & Pell, M.D. (2009). Irony comprehension and theory of mind deficits in patients with Parkinson's disease. Cortex, 45, 972-981. (Special Issue on "Parkinson's disease, Language, and Cognition").

Many individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD) are known to have difficulties in understanding pragmatic aspects of language. In the present study, a group of eleven non-demented PD patients and eleven healthy control (HC) participants were tested on their ability to interpret communicative intentions underlying verbal irony and lies, as well as on their ability to infer first- and second-order mental states (i.e., theory of mind). Following Winner et al. (1998), participants answered different types of questions about the events which unfolded in stories which ended in either an ironic statement or a lie. Results showed that PD patients were significantly less accurate than HC participants in assigning second-order beliefs during the story comprehension task, suggesting that the ability to make a second-order mental state attribution declines in PD. The PD patients were also less able to distinguish whether the final statement of a story should be interpreted as a joke or a lie, suggesting a failure in pragmatic interpretation abilities. The implications of frontal lobe dysfunction in PD as a source of difficulties with working memory, mental state attributions, and pragmatic language deficits are discussed in the context of these findings.


Pell, M.D., Monetta, L., Paulmann, S. & Kotz, S.A. (2009). Recognizing emotions in a foreign language. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 33, 107-120.

Expressions of basic emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust) can be recognized pan-culturally from the face and it is assumed that these emotions can be recognized from a speaker’s voice, regardless of an individual’s culture or linguistic ability. Here, we compared how monolingual speakers of Argentine Spanish recognize basic emotions from pseudo-utterances (“nonsense speech”) produced in their native language and in three foreign languages (English, German, Arabic). Results indicated that vocal expressions of basic emotions could be decoded in each language condition at accuracy levels exceeding chance, although Spanish listeners performed significantly better overall in their native language (“in-group advantage”). Our findings argue that the ability to understand vocally-expressed emotions in speech is partly independent of linguistic ability and involves universal principles, although this ability is also shaped by linguistic and cultural variables.



Pell, M.D. & Monetta, L. (2008). How Parkinson’s disease affects nonverbal communication and language processing. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2 (5), 739-759.

In addition to difficulties that affect movement, many adults with Parkinson's disease (PD) experience changes that negatively impact on receptive aspects of their communication. For example, some PD patients have difficulties processing non-verbal expressions (facial expressions, voice tone) and many are less sensitive to ‘non-literal’ or pragmatic meanings of language, at least under certain conditions. This chapter outlines how PD can affect the comprehension of language and non-verbal expressions and considers how these changes are related to concurrent alterations in cognition (e.g., executive functions, working memory) and motor signs associated with the disease. Our summary underscores that the progressive course of PD can interrupt a number of functional systems that support cognition and receptive language, and in different ways, leading to both primary and secondary impairments of the systems that support linguistic and non-verbal communication.


Monetta, L., Cheang, H.S. & Pell, M.D. (2008). Understanding speaker attitudes from prosody by adults with Parkinson's disease. Journal of Neuropsychology, 2, 415-430.

The ability to interpret vocal (prosodic) cues during social interactions can be disrupted by Parkinson's disease, with notable effects on how emotions are understood from speech. This study investigated whether PD patients who have emotional prosody deficits exhibit further difficulties decoding the attitude of a speaker from prosody. Vocally inflected but semantically nonsensical ‘pseudo-utterances’ were presented to listener groups with and without PD in two separate rating tasks. Task 1 required participants to rate how confident a speaker sounded from their voice and Task 2 required listeners to rate how polite the speaker sounded for a comparable set of pseudo-utterances. The results showed that PD patients were significantly less able than HC participants to use prosodic cues to differentiate intended levels of speaker confidence in speech, although the patients could accurately detect the polite/impolite attitude of the speaker from prosody in most cases. Our data suggest that many PD patients fail to use vocal cues to effectively infer a speaker's emotions as well as certain attitudes in speech such as confidence, consistent with the idea that the basal ganglia play a role in the meaningful processing of prosodic sequences in spoken language (Pell & Leonard, 2003).


Monetta,L., Grindrod, C.M., & Pell, M.D. (2008). Effects of working memory capacity on inference generation during story comprehension in adults with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 21, 400-417.

A group of non-demented adults with Parkinson's disease (PD) were studied to investigate how PD affects pragmatic-language processing, and, specifically, to test the hypothesis that the ability to draw inferences from discourse in PD is critically tied to the underlying working memory (WM) capacity of individual patients [Monetta, L., & Pell, M. D. (2007). Effects of verbal working memory deficits on metaphor comprehension in patients with Parkinson's disease. Brain and Language, 101, 80–89]. Thirteen PD patients and a matched group of 16 healthy control (HC) participants performed the Discourse Comprehension Test [Brookshire, R. H., & Nicholas, L. E. (1993). Discourse comprehension test. Tucson, AZ: Communication Skill Builders], a standardized test which evaluates the ability to generate inferences based on explicit or implied information relating to main ideas or details presented in short stories. Initial analyses revealed that the PD group as a whole was significantly less accurate than the HC group when comprehension questions pertained to implied as opposed to explicit information in the stories, consistent with previous findings [Murray, L. L., & Stout, J. C. (1999). Discourse comprehension in Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases. American Journal of Speech–Language Pathology, 8, 137–148]. However, subsequent analyses showed that only a subgroup of PD patients with WM deficits, and not PD patients with WM capacity within the control group range, were significantly impaired for drawing inferences (especially predictive inferences about implied details in the stories) when compared to the control group. These results build on a growing body of literature, which demonstrates that compromise of frontal–striatal systems and subsequent reductions in processing/WM capacity in PD are a major source of pragmatic-language deficits in many PD patients.


Paulmann, S., Pell, M.D., & Kotz, S.A. (2008). Functional contributions of the basal ganglia to emotional prosody: evidence from ERPs. Brain Research, 1217, 171-178.

The basal ganglia (BG) have been functionally linked to emotional processing [Pell, M.D., Leonard, C.L., 2003. Processing emotional tone form speech in Parkinson's Disease: a role for the basal ganglia. Cogn. Affec. Behav. Neurosci. 3, 275–288; Pell, M.D., 2006. Cerebral mechanisms for understanding emotional prosody in speech. Brain Lang. 97 (2), 221–234]. However, few studies have tried to specify the precise role of the BG during emotional prosodic processing. Therefore, the current study examined deviance detection in healthy listeners and patients with left focal BG lesions during implicit emotional prosodic processing in an event-related brain potential (ERP)-experiment. In order to compare these ERP responses with explicit judgments of emotional prosody, the same participants were tested in a follow-up recognition task. As previously reported [Kotz, S.A., Paulmann, S., 2007. When emotional prosody and semantics dance cheek to cheek: ERP evidence. Brain Res. 1151, 107–118; Paulmann, S. & Kotz, S.A., 2008. An ERP investigation on the temporal dynamics of emotional prosody and emotional semantics in pseudo- and lexical sentence context. Brain Lang. 105, 59–69], deviance of prosodic expectancy elicits a right lateralized positive ERP component in healthy listeners. Here we report a similar positive ERP correlate in BG-patients and healthy controls. In contrast, BG-patients are significantly impaired in explicit recognition of emotional prosody when compared to healthy controls. The current data serve as first evidence that focal lesions in left BG do not necessarily affect implicit emotional prosodic processing but evaluative emotional prosodic processes as demonstrated in the recognition task. The results suggest that the BG may not play a mandatory role in implicit emotional prosodic processing. Rather, executive processes underlying the recognition task may be dysfunctional during emotional prosodic processing.


Pell, M.D., & Skorup, V. (2008). Implicit processing of emotional prosody in a foreign versus native language. Speech Communication, 50, 519-530.

To test ideas about the universality and time course of vocal emotion processing, 50 English listeners performed an emotional priming task to determine whether they implicitly recognize emotional meanings of prosody when exposed to a foreign language. Arabic pseudoutterances produced in a happy, sad, or neutral prosody acted as primes for a happy, sad, or false (i.e., non-emotional) face target and participants judged whether the facial expression represents an emotion. The prosody-face relationship (congruent, incongruent) and the prosody duration (600 or 1000 ms) were independently manipulated in the same experiment. Results indicated that English listeners automatically detect the emotional significance of prosody when expressed in a foreign language, although activation of emotional meanings in a foreign language may require increased exposure to prosodic information than when listening to the native language.


Cheang, H.S. & Pell, M.D. (2008). The sound of sarcasm. Speech Communication, 50, 366-381.

The present study was conducted to identify possible acoustic cues of sarcasm. Native English speakers produced a variety of simple utterances to convey four different attitudes: sarcasm, humour, sincerity, and neutrality. Following validation by a separate naïve group of native English speakers, the recorded speech was subjected to acoustic analyses for the following features: mean fundamental frequency (F0), F0 standard deviation, F0 range, mean amplitude, amplitude range, speech rate, harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR, to probe for voice quality changes), and one-third octave spectral values (to probe resonance changes). The results of analyses indicated that sarcasm was reliably characterized by a number of prosodic cues, although one acoustic feature appeared particularly robust in sarcastic utterances: overall reductions in mean F0 relative to all other target attitudes. Sarcasm was also reliably distinguished from sincerity by overall reductions in HNR and in F0 standard deviation. In certain linguistic contexts, sarcasm could be differentiated from sincerity and humour through changes in resonance and reductions in both speech rate and F0 range. Results also suggested a role of language used by speakers in conveying sarcasm and sincerity. It was concluded that sarcasm in speech can be characterized by a specific pattern of prosodic cues in addition to textual cues, and that these acoustic characteristics can be influenced by language used by the speaker.


Paulmann, S., Pell, M.D. & Kotz, S.A. (2008). How aging affects the recognition of emotional speech. Brain and Language, 104, 262-269.

To successfully infer a speaker’s emotional state, diverse sources of emotional information need to be decoded. The present study explored to what extent emotional speech recognition of ‘basic’ emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, pleasant surprise, sadness) differs between different sex (male/female) and age (young/middle-aged) groups in a behavioural experiment. Participants were asked to identify the emotional prosody of a sentence as accurately as possible. As a secondary goal, the perceptual findings were examined in relation to acoustic properties of the sentences presented. Findings indicate that emotion recognition rates differ between the different categories tested and that these patterns varied significantly as a function of age, but not of sex.


Dara, C., Monetta, L. & Pell, M.D. (2008). Vocal emotion processing in Parkinson’s disease: reduced sensitivity to negative emotions. Brain Research, 1188, 100-111.

To document the impact of Parkinson's disease (PD) on communication and to further clarify the role of the basal ganglia in the processing of emotional speech prosody, this investigation compared how PD patients identify basic emotions from prosody and judge specific affective properties of the same vocal stimuli, such as valence or intensity. Sixteen non-demented adults with PD and 17 healthy control (HC) participants listened to semantically-anomalous pseudo-utterances spoken in seven emotional intonations (anger, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness, pleasant surprise, neutral) and two distinct levels of perceived emotional intensity (high, low). On three separate occasions, participants classified the emotional meaning of the prosody for each utterance (identification task), rated how positive or negative the stimulus sounded (valence rating task), or rated how intense the emotion was expressed by the speaker (intensity rating task). Results indicated that the PD group was significantly impaired relative to the HC group for categorizing emotional prosody and showed a reduced sensitivity to valence, but not intensity, attributes of emotional expressions conveying anger, disgust, and fear. The findings are discussed in light of the possible role of the basal ganglia in the processing of discrete emotions, particularly those associated with negative vigilance, and of how PD may impact on the sequential processing of prosodic expressions.



Berney, A., Panisset, M., Sadikot, A.F., Ptito, A., Dagher, A., Fraraccio, M., Savard, G., Pell, M.D. & Benkelfat, C. (2007). Mood stability during acute stimulator challenge in PD patients under long-term treatment with subthalamic DBS. Movement Disorders, 22(8), 1093-1096

Acute and chronic behavioral effects of subthalamic stimulation (STN-DBS) for Parkinson's disease (PD) are reported in the literature. As the technique is relatively new, few systematic studies on the behavioral effects in long-term treated patients are available. To further study the putative effects of STN-DBS on mood and emotional processing, 15 consecutive PD patients under STN-DBS for at least 1 year, were tested ON and OFF stimulation while on or off medication, with instruments sensitive to short-term changes in mood and in emotional discrimination. After acute changes in experimental conditions, mood core dimensions (depression, elation, anxiety) and emotion discrimination processing remained remarkably stable, in the face of significant motor changes. Acute stimulator challenge in long-term STN-DBS–treated PD patients does not appear to provoke clinically relevant mood effects.


Cheang, H.S. & Pell, M.D. (2007). An acoustic investigation of Parkinsonian speech in linguistic and emotional contexts. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 20, 221-241

The speech prosody of a group of patients in the early stages of Parkinson's disease (PD) was compared to that of a group of healthy age- and education-matched controls to quantify possible acoustic changes in speech production secondary to PD. Both groups produced standardized speech samples across a number of prosody conditions: phonemic stress, contrastive stress, and emotional prosody. The amplitude, fundamental frequency, and duration of all tokens were measured. PD speakers produced speech that was of lower amplitude than the tokens of healthy speakers in many conditions across all production tasks. Fundamental frequency distinguished the two speaker groups for contrastive stress and emotional prosody production, and duration differentiated the groups for phonemic stress production. It was concluded that motor impairments in PD lead to adverse and varied acoustic changes which affect a number of prosodic contrasts in speech and that these alterations appear to occur in earlier stages of disease progression than is often presumed by many investigators.


Monetta, L. & Pell, M.D. (2007). Effects of verbal working memory deficits on metaphor comprehension in patients with Parkinson's disease. Brain and Language, 101, 80-89.

The speech prosody of a group of patients in the early stages of Parkinson's disease (PD) was compared to that of a group of healthy age- and education-matched controls to quantify possible acoustic changes in speech production secondary to PD. Both groups produced standardized speech samples across a number of prosody conditions: phonemic stress, contrastive stress, and emotional prosody. The amplitude, fundamental frequency, and duration of all tokens were measured. PD speakers produced speech that was of lower amplitude than the tokens of healthy speakers in many conditions across all production tasks. Fundamental frequency distinguished the two speaker groups for contrastive stress and emotional prosody production, and duration differentiated the groups for phonemic stress production. It was concluded that motor impairments in PD lead to adverse and varied acoustic changes which affect a number of prosodic contrasts in speech and that these alterations appear to occur in earlier stages of disease progression than is often presumed by many investigators.


Pell, M.D. (2007). Reduced sensitivity to prosodic attitudes in adults with focal right hemisphere brain damage. Brain and Language, 101, 64-79.

Although there is a strong link between the right hemisphere and understanding emotional prosody in speech, there are few data on how the right hemisphere is implicated for understanding the emotive "attitudes" of a speaker from prosody. This report describes two experiments which compared how listeners with and without focal right hemisphere damage (RHD) rate speaker attitudes of "confidence" and "politeness" which are signalled in large part by prosodic features of an utterance. The RHD listeners displayed abnormal sensitivity to both the expressed confidence and politeness of speakers, underscoring a major role for the right hemisphere in the processing of emotions and speaker attitudes from prosody, although the source of these deficits may sometimes vary.



Pell, M. D., Cheang, H. S., & Leonard, C. L. (2006). The impact of Parkinson’s disease on vocal-prosodic communication from the perspective of listeners. Brain and Language , 97 (2), 123-134.

An expressive disturbance of speech prosody has long been associated with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease (PD), but little is known about the impact of dysprosody on vocal-prosodic communication from the perspective of listeners. Recordings of healthy adults (n = 12) and adults with mild to moderate PD (n = 21) were elicited in four speech contexts in which prosody serves a primary function in linguistic or emotive communication (phonemic stress, contrastive stress, sentence mode, and emotional prosody). Twenty independent listeners naive to the disease status of individual speakers then judged the intended meanings conveyed by prosody for tokens recorded in each condition. Findings indicated that PD speakers were less successful at communicating stress distinctions, especially words produced with contrastive stress, which were identifiable to listeners. Listeners were also significantly less able to detect intended emotional qualities of Parkinsonian speech, especially for anger and disgust. Emotional expressions that were correctly recognized by listeners were consistently rated as less intense for the PD group. Utterances produced by PD speakers were frequently characterized as sounding sad or devoid of emotion entirely (neutral). Results argue that motor limitations on the vocal apparatus in PD produce serious and early negative repercussions on communication through prosody, which diminish the social-linguistic competence of Parkinsonian adults as judged by listeners.


Pell, M.D. (2006). Cerebral mechanisms for understanding emotional prosody in speech. Brain and Language, 96 (2), 221-234.

Hemispheric contributions to the processing of emotional speech prosody were investigated by comparing adults with a focal lesion involving the right (n = 9) or left (n = 11) hemisphere and adults without brain damage (n = 12). Participants listened to semantically anomalous utterances in three conditions (discrimination, identification, and rating) which assessed their recognition of five prosodic emotions under the influence of different task- and response-selection demands. Findings revealed that right- and left-hemispheric lesions were associated with impaired comprehension of prosody, although possibly for distinct reasons: right-hemisphere compromise produced a more pervasive insensitivity to emotive features of prosodic stimuli, whereas left-hemisphere damage yielded greater difficulties interpreting prosodic representations as a code embedded with language content.


Cheang, H.S. & Pell, M.D. (2006). A study of humour and communicative intention following right hemisphere stroke. Journal of Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 20 (6), 447-462

This research provides further data regarding non‐literal language comprehension following right hemisphere damage (RHD). To assess the impact of RHD on the processing of non‐literal language, ten participants presenting with RHD and ten matched healthy control participants were administered tasks tapping humour appreciation and pragmatic interpretation of non‐literal language. Although the RHD participants exhibited a relatively intact ability to interpret humour from jokes, their use of pragmatic knowledge about interpersonal relationships in discourse was significantly reduced, leading to abnormalities in their understanding of communicative intentions (CI). Results imply that explicitly detailing CI in discourse facilitates RHD participants' comprehension of non‐literal language.



Pell, M.D. (2005). Prosody-face interactions in emotional processing as revealed by the facial affect decision task. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 29 (4), 193-215.

Previous research employing the facial affect decision task (FADT) indicates that when listeners are exposed to semantically anomalous utterances produced in different emotional tones (prosody), the emotional meaning of the prosody primes decisions about an emotionally congruent rather than incongruent facial expression (Pell, M. D., Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 29, 45-73). This study undertook further development of the FADT by investigating the approximate timecourse of prosody-face interactions in nonverbal emotion processing. Participants executed facial affect decisions about happy and sad face targets after listening to utterance fragments produced in an emotionally related, unrelated, or neutral prosody, cut to 300, 600, or 1000 ms in duration. Results underscored that prosodic information enduring at least 600 ms was necessary to presumably activate shared emotion knowledge responsible for prosody-face congruity effects.


Pell, M.D. & Leonard, C.L. (2005). Facial expression decoding in early Parkinson’s disease.Cognitive Brain Research, 23 (2-3), 327-340.

The ability to derive emotional and non-emotional information from unfamiliar, static faces was evaluated in 21 adults with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) and 21 healthy control subjects. Participants' sensitivity to emotional expressions was comprehensively assessed in tasks of discrimination, identification, and rating of five basic emotions: happiness, (pleasant) surprise, anger, disgust, and sadness. Subjects also discriminated and identified faces according to underlying phonemic ("facial speech") cues and completed a neuropsychological test battery. Results uncovered limited evidence that the processing of emotional faces differed between the two groups in our various conditions, adding to recent arguments that these skills are frequently intact in non-demented adults with PD [R. Adolphs, R. Schul, D. Tranel, Intact recognition of facial emotion in Parkinson's disease, Neuropsychology 12 (1998) 253-258]. Patients could also accurately interpret facial speech cues and discriminate the identity of unfamiliar faces in a normal manner. There were some indications that basal ganglia pathology in PD contributed to selective difficulties recognizing facial expressions of disgust, consistent with a growing literature on this topic. Collectively, findings argue that abnormalities for face processing are not a consistent or generalized feature of medicated adults with mild-moderate PD, prompting discussion of issues that may be contributing to heterogeneity within this literature. Our results imply a more limited role for the basal ganglia in the processing of emotion from static faces relative to speech prosody, for which the same PD patients exhibited pronounced deficits in a parallel set of tasks [M.D. Pell, C. Leonard, Processing emotional tone from speech in Parkinson's disease: a role for the basal ganglia, Cogn. Affect. Behav. Neurosci. 3 (2003) 275-288]. These diverging patterns allow for the possibility that basal ganglia mechanisms are more engaged by temporally-encoded social information derived from cue sequences over time.


Pell, M.D. (2005). Nonverbal emotion priming: evidence from the ‘facial affect decision task’. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 29 (1), 45-73.

Affective associations between a speakerrsquos voice (emotional prosody) and a facial expression were investigated using a new on-line procedure, the Facial Affect Decision Task (FADT). Faces depicting one of four lsquobasicrsquo emotions were paired with utterances conveying an emotionally-related or unrelated prosody, followed by a yes/no judgement of the face as a lsquotruersquo exemplar of emotion. Results established that prosodic characteristics facilitate the accuracy and speed of decisions about an emotionally congruent target face, supplying empirical support for the idea that information about discrete emotions is shared across major nonverbal channels. The FADT represents a promising tool for future on-line studies of nonverbal processing in both healthy and disordered individuals.



Pell, M.D. & Leonard, C.L. (2003). Processing emotional tone from speech in Parkinson’s disease: a role for the basal ganglia. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 3 (4), 275-288.

In this study, individuals with Parkinson’s disease were tested as a model for basal ganglia dysfunction to infer how these structures contribute to the processing of emotional speech tone (emotional prosody). Nondemented individuals with and without Parkinson’s disease (n = 21/group) completed neuropsychological tests and tasks that required them to process the meaning of emotional prosody in various ways (discrimination, identification, emotional feature rating). Individuals with basal ganglia disease exhibited abnormally reduced sensitivity to the emotional significance of prosody in a range of contexts, a deficit that could not be attributed to changes in mood, emotional-symbolic processing, or estimated frontal lobe cognitive resource limitations in most conditions. On the basis of these and broader findings in the literature, it is argued that the basal ganglia provide a critical mechanism for reinforcing the behavioral significance of prosodic patterns and other temporal representations derived from cue sequences (Lieberman, 2000), facilitating cortical elaboration of these events.



Pell, M.D. (2002). Evaluation of nonverbal emotion in face and voice: some preliminary findings on a new battery of tests. Brain and Cognition, 48, 499-504.

This report describes some preliminary attributes of stimuli developed for future evaluation of nonverbal emotion in neurological populations with acquired communication impairments. Facial and vocal exemplars of six target emotions were elicited from four male and four female encoders and then prejudged by 10 young decoders to establish the category membership of each item at an acceptable consensus level. Representative stimuli were then presented to 16 additional decoders to gather indices of how category membership and encoder gender influenced recognition accuracy of emotional meanings in each nonverbal channel. Initial findings pointed to greater facility in recognizing target emotions from facial than vocal stimuli overall and revealed significant accuracy differences among the six emotions in both the vocal and facial channels. The gender of the encoder portraying emotional expressions was also a significant factor in how well decoders recognized specific emotions (disgust, neutral), but only in the facial condition.



Baum, S.R., Pell, M.D., Leonard, C. & Gordon, J. (2001). Using prosody to resolve temporary syntactic ambiguities in speech production: acoustic data on brain-damaged speakers. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 15, 441-456.

Left hemisphere brain lesions resulting in aphasia frequently produce impairments in speech production, including the ability to appropriately transmit linguistic distinctions through sentence prosody. The present investigation gathered preliminary data on how focal brain lesions influence one important aspect of prosody that has been largely ignored in the literature - the production of sentence-level syntactic distinctions that rely on prosodic alterations to disambiguate alternate meanings of a sentence. Utterances characterizing three distinct types of syntactic ambiguities (scope, prepositional phrase attachment, and noun phrase/sentential complement attachment) were elicited from individuals with unilateral left hemisphere damage (LHD), right hemisphere damage (RHD), and adults without brain pathology (NC). A written vignette preceding each ambiguous sentence target biased how the utterance was interpreted and produced. Recorded productions were analysed acoustically to examine parameters of duration (word length, pause) and fundamental frequency (F0) for key constituents specific to each of the ambiguity conditions. Results of the duration analyses demonstrated a preservation of many of the temporal cues to syntactic boundaries in both LHD and RHD patients. The two interpretations of sentences containing 'scope' and 'prepositional phrase attachment' ambiguities were differentiated by all speakers (including LHD and RHD patients) through the production of at least one critical temporal parameter that was consistent across the three groups. Temporal markers of sentences containing 'noun phrase/sentential complement attachment' ambiguities were not found to be encoded consistently within any speaker group and may be less amenable to experimental manipulation in this manner. Results of F0 analyses were far less revealing in characterizing different syntactic assignments of the stimuli, and coupled with other findings in the literature, may carry less weight than temporal parameters in this process. Together, results indicate that the ability to disambiguate sentences using prosodic variables is relatively spared subsequent to both LHD and RHD, although it is noteworthy that LHD patients did exhibit deficits regulating other temporal properties of the utterances, consistent with left hemisphere control of speech timing.


Pell, M.D. (2001). Influence of emotion and focus location on prosody in matched statements and questions. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 109 (4), 1668-1680.

Preliminary data were collected on how emotional qualities of the voice (sad, happy, angry) influence the acoustic underpinnings of neutral sentences varying in location of intra-sentential focus (initial, final, no) and utterance "modality" (statement, question). Short (six syllable) and long (ten syllable) utterances exhibiting varying combinations of emotion, focus, and modality characteristics were analyzed for eight elderly speakers following administration of a controlled elicitation paradigm (story completion) and a speaker evaluation procedure. Duration and fundamental frequency (f0) parameters of recordings were scrutinized for "keyword" vowels within each token and for whole utterances. Results generally re-affirmed past accounts of how duration and f0 are encoded on key content words to mark linguistic focus in affectively neutral statements and questions for English. Acoustic data on three "global" parameters of the stimuli (speech rate, mean f0, f0 range) were also largely supportive of previous descriptions of how happy, sad, angry, and neutral utterances are differentiated in the speech signal. Important interactions between emotional and linguistic properties of the utterances emerged which were predominantly (although not exclusively) tied to the modulation of f0; speakers were notably constrained in conditions which required them to manipulate f0 parameters to express emotional and nonemotional intentions conjointly. Sentence length also had a meaningful impact on some of the measures gathered.


Leonard, C.L., Baum, S.R., & Pell, M.D. (2001). The effect of compressed speech on the ability of right-hemisphere-damaged patients to use context. Cortex, 37 (3), 327-344

The ability of RHD patients to use context under conditions of increased processing demands was examined. Subjects monitored for words in auditorily presented sentences of three context types-normal, semantically anomalous, and random, at three rates of speech normal, 70% compressed (Experiment 1) and 60% compressed (Experiment 2). Effects of semantics and syntax were found for the RHD and normal groups under the normal rate of speech condition. Using compressed rates of speech, the effect of syntax disappeared, but the effect of semantics remained. Importantly, and contrary to expectations, the RHD group was similar to normals in continuing to demonstrate an effect of semantic context under conditions of increased processing demands. Results are discussed relative to contemporary theories of laterality, based on studies with normals, that suggest that the involvement of the left versus right hemisphere in context use may depend upon the type of contextual information being processed.




Pell, M.D. (1999). The temporal organization of affective and non-affective speech in patients with right-hemisphere infarcts. Cortex, 35 (4), 455-477.

To evaluate the right hemisphere's role in encoding speech prosody, an acoustic investigation of timing characteristics was undertaken in speakers with and without focal right-hemisphere damage (RHD) following cerebrovascular accident. Utterances varying along different prosodic dimensions (emphasis, emotion) were elicited from each speaker using a story completion paradigm, and measures of utterance rate and vowel duration were computed. Results demonstrated parallelism in how RHD and healthy individuals encoded the temporal correlates of emphasis in most experimental conditions. Differences in how RHD speakers employed temporal cues to specify some aspects of prosodic meaning (especially emotional content) were observed and corresponded to a reduction in the perceptibility of prosodic meanings when conveyed by the RHD speakers. Findings indicate that RHD individuals are most disturbed when expressing prosodic representations that vary in a graded (rather than categorical) manner in the speech signal (Blonder, Pickering, Heath et al., 1995; Pell, 1999a).


Pell, M.D. (1999). Fundamental frequency encoding of linguistic and emotional prosody by right hemisphere-damaged speakers. Brain and Language, 69 (2), 161-192.

To illuminate the nature of the right hemisphere's involvement in expressive prosodic functions, a story completion task was administered to matched groups of right hemisphere-damaged (RHD) and nonneurological control subjects. Utterances which simultaneously specified three prosodic distinctions (emphatic stress, sentence modality, emotional tone) were elicited from each subject group and then subjected to acoustic analysis to examine various fundamental frequency (F(0)) attributes of the stimuli. Results indicated that RHD speakers tended to produce F(0) patterns that resembled normal productions in overall shape, but with significantly less F(0) variation. The RHD patients were also less reliable than normal speakers at transmitting emphasis or emotional contrasts when judged from the listener's perspective. Examination of the results across a wide variety of stimulus types pointed to a deficit in successfully implementing continuous aspects of F(0) patterns following right hemisphere insult.




Pell, M.D. (1998). Recognition of prosody following unilateral brain lesion: influence of functional and structural attributes of prosodic contours. Neuropsychologia, 36(8), 701-715.

The perception of prosodic distinctions by adults with unilateral right- (RHD) and left-hemisphere (LHD) damage and subjects without brain injury was assessed through six tasks that varied both functional (i.e. linguistic\emotional) and structural (i.e. acoustic) attributes of a common set of base stimuli. Three tasks explored the subjects’ ability to perceive local prosodic markers associated with emphatic stress (Focus Perception condition) and three tasks examined the comprehension of emotional-prosodic meanings by the same listeners (Emotion Perception condition). Within each condition, an initial task measured the subjects’ ability to recognize each ‘‘type’’ of prosody when all potential acoustic features (but no semantic features) signalled the target response (Baseline). Two additional tasks investigated the extent to which each group’s performance on the Baseline task was influenced by duration (D-Neutral) or fundamental frequency (F-Neutral) parameters of the stimuli within each condition. Results revealed that both RHD and LHD patients were impaired, relative to healthy control subjects, in interpreting the emotional meaning of prosodic contours, but that only LHD patients displayed subnormal capacity to perceive linguistic (emphatic) specifications via prosodic cues. The performance of the RHD and LHD patients was also selectively disturbed when certain acoustic properties of the stimuli were manipulated, suggesting that both functional and structural attributes of prosodic patterns may be determinants of prosody lateralization.



Baum, S.R., Pell, M.D., Leonard, C.L. & Gordon, J.K. (1997). The ability of right- and left-hemisphere-damaged individuals to produce and interpret prosodic cues marking phrasal boundaries. Language and Speech, 40(4), 313-330.

Two experiments were conducted with the purpose of investigating the ability of right-and left-hemisphere-damaged individuals to produce and perceive the acoustic correlates to phrase boundaries. In the production experiment, the utterance pink and black and green was elicited in three different conditions corresponding to different arrangements of colored squares. Acoustic analyses revealed that both left-and right-hemisphere-damaged patients exhibited fewer of the expected acoustic patterns in their productions than did normal control subjects. The reduction in acoustic cues to phrase boundaries in the utterances of both patient groups was perceptually salient to three trained listeners. The perception experiment demonstrated a significant impairment in the ability of both left-hemisphere-damaged and right-hemisphere-damaged individuals to perceive phrasal groupings. Results are discussed in relation to current hypotheses concerning the cerebral lateralization of speech prosody.


Pell, M.D. & Baum, S.R. (1997). Unilateral brain damage, prosodic comprehension deficits, and the acoustic cues to prosody. Brain and Language, 57(2), 195-214.

Stimuli from two previously presented comprehension tasks of affective and linguistic prosody (Pell & Baum, 1997) were analyzed acoustically and subjected to several discriminant function analyses, following Van Lancker and Sidtis (1992). An analysis of the errors made on these tasks by left-hemisphere-damaged (LHD) and right-hemisphere-damaged (RHD) subjects examined whether each clinical group relied on specific (and potentially different) acoustic features in comprehending prosodic stimuli (Van Lancker & Sidtis, 1992). Analyses also indicated whether the brain-damaged patients tested in Pell and Baum (1997) exhibited perceptual impairments in the processing of intonation. Acoustic analyses of the utterances reaffirmed the importance of F0 cues in signaling affective and linguistic prosody. Analyses of subjects' affective misclassifications did not suggest that LHD and RHD patients were biased by different sets of the acoustic features to prosody in judging their meaning, in contrast to Van Lancker and Sidtis (1992). However, qualitative differences were noted in the ability of LHD and RHD patients to identifylinguisticprosody, indicating that LHD subjects may be specifically impaired in decoding linguistically defined categorical features of prosodic patterns.


Pell, M.D. & Baum, S.R. (1997). The ability to perceive and comprehend intonation in linguistic and affective contexts by brain-damaged adults. Brain and Language, 57(1), 80-99.

Receptive tasks of linguistic and affective prosody were administered to 9 right-hemisphere-damaged (RHD), 10 left-hemisphere-damaged (LHD), and 10 age-matched control (NC) subjects. Two tasks measured subjects' ability to discriminate utterances based solely on prosodic cues, and six tasks required subjects to identify linguistic or affective intonational meanings. Identification tasks manipulated the degree to which the auditory stimuli were structured linguistically, presenting speech-filtered, nonsensical, and semantically well-formed utterances in different tasks. Neither patient group was impaired relative to normals in discriminating prosodic patterns or recognizing affective tone conveyed suprasegmentally, suggesting that neither the LHD nor the RHD patients displayed a receptive disturbance for emotional prosody. The LHD group, however, was differentially impaired on linguistic rather than emotional tasks and performed significantly worse than the NC group on linguistic tasks even when semantic information biased the target response.


Baum, S.R. & Pell, M.D. (1997). Production of affective and linguistic prosody by brain-damaged patients. Aphasiology, 11, 177-198.

To test a number of hypotheses concerning the functional lateralization of speech prosody, the ability of unilaterally right-hemisphere-damaged (RHD), unilaterally left-hemisphere-damaged (LHD), and age-matched control subjects (NC) to produce linguistic and affective prosodic contrasts at the sentence level was assessed via acoustic analysis. Multiple aspects of suprasegmental processing were explored, including a manipulation of the type of elicitation task employed (repetition vs reading) and the amount of linguistic structure provided in experimental stimuli (stimuli were either speech-filtered, nonsensical, or semantically well formed). In general, the results demonstrated that both RHD and LHD patients were able to appropriately utilize the acoustic parameters examined (duration, fundamental frequency (F 0), amplitude) to differentiate both linguistic and affective sentence types in a manner comparable to NC speakers. Some irregularities in the global modulation of F 0 and amplitude by RHD speakers were noted, however. Overall, the present findings do not provide support for previous claims that the right hemisphere is specifically engaged in the production of affective prosody. Alternative models of prosodic processing are noted.



Pell, M.D. (1996). On the receptive prosodic loss in Parkinson's disease. Cortex, 3, 693-704.

To comprehensively explore how the processing of linguistic and affective prosodic cues is affected by idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD), a battery of receptive tests was presented to eleven PD patients without intellectual or language impairment and eleven control subjects (NC) matched for age, gender, and educational attainment. Receptive abilities for both low-level (discrimination) and higher-level (identification) prosodic processing were explored; moreover, the identification of prosodic feature was tested at both the lexical level (phonemic stress perception) and over the sentential domain (prosodic pattern identification). The results obtained demonstrated a general reduction in the ability of the PD patients to identify the linguistic- and affective-prosodic meaning of utterances relative to NC subjects, without a concurrent loss in the ability to perceive phonemic stress contrasts or discriminate prosodic patterns. However, the qualitative pattern of the PD and NC groups' performance across the various identification conditions tested was remarkably uniform, indicating that only quantitative differences in comprehension abilities may have characterized the two groups. It is hypothesized that the basal ganglia form part of a functional network dedicated to prosodic processing (Blonder et al., 1989) and that the processes required to map prosodic features onto their communicative representations at the sentence level are rendered less efficient by the degenerative course of PD.


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